Out & About First Person: Stern Grove

My six year old daughter and three year old son are home with me all summer. No camp, no preschool. And now it is mid-July and we are a little tired of each other. We need to do some new things, and we need someone new to tell us what things to do. And I need it to be cheap (i.e. free). 

And lo, an email from Stern Grove Festival arrives in my inbox, reminding me of the Kids Day event I had registered for in March, back when I knew not how bored we would be, how much we would need such an event.

And so we go. We arrive late. We drive down the narrow park road off Sloat and Nineteenth, creeping past a line of small campers ascending the hill, to a tiny parking lot that is already full. I huff and bluster back up the hill (“this is why we have to leave on time, even if your socks are hurting!”), reluctantly parking on Nineteenth, the worst of the avenues. Now we walk down the steep road, and we’re really late. The registration tent is still open. They are so friendly and kind, and don’t even scold me when I realize that my son is technically too young for the event, that I missed the fine print back in March. They direct us to the stage, and encourage me with a smile: “you can dance, too!” 

We dance on the main stage, with other kids and a few parents, directed in a simple but extremely catchy Bhangra dance routine by the Dholrythms. The dancers are pros— gorgeous movements and excellent teachers and herders. We all break for lunch, eating a picnic in the shade, with the forest around us. I’m so happy, I’m not even worried about making it up the hill with my three year old, who tends to lose all muscle tone when he’s tired. I’m not even mad at myself when I realize there is a second parking lot a little further from where I turned around.

There are two more Kids Days programs scheduled for this summer, and registration is still open

  • July 17-19: join Aguacero for Bomba music and dance from Puerto Rico.
  • July 24-26: learn about dance and movement with the San Francisco Ballet.

Here are some tips to be better prepared than we were:

  • Advance registration is required. You can sign up multiple kids for the same event. You cannot attend more than one day of the same program. 
  • The programs are meant for kids ages 4-11, though my three year old managed just fine with minimal help. Parents are not required to actually dance (though you should!), but it's not a drop-off program.
  • There is a small parking lot near the Concert Meadow that fills up quickly. If you continue past the registration tent and down a small park road, there is another, larger parking lot (Vale Parking Area), that is more likely to have spaces, even if you are late. You can also access this lot on Vale Avenue off of Sloat (see map). Note that these parking areas are closed for the Sunday Stern Grove concerts.
  • Bring a picnic and a blanket or towel. The grass areas, especially in the shade, are fairly wet. There are plenty of rock benches and ledges to perch on if you forget. Bring lots of water. It is a lot of dancing and we were thirsty! 

If you're unable to make the weekday sessions, check out the Kids Stage held from 12-1:30PM before the Sunday Concerts. Dance workshops and instrument experiment stations are offered, with many of the same artists that attend the Kids Days. If your partner is willing to supervise the fun, consider sneaking away for your own yoga session from 12-1PM.


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